The invention of the mythic west

The invention of the mythic west
New Misfortune collection!

“_In 1849, Kit Carson set out to rescue a white woman, providentially named Mrs. White, who had been taken captive by the Jicarilla Apaches. When the search party caught up with the Indians, it was too late; Mrs. White had just been killed, but Kit Carson came upon a surprising souvenir: ‘We found a book in the camp,’ he reported, ‘the first of the kind I had ever seen, in which I was represented as a great hero, slaying Indians by the hundreds.’_”

— Patricia Nelson Limerick, in Rethinking America’s Western Past

I love this story so much: the real Kit Carson meeting his own imaginary doppelganger.

The settlement of the American West is among the first moments where mass media and current events became intertwined. Settlers from the East would read entirely fictitious accounts of events in the West and then report back those accounts as their own memories. The myths were being created as events occurred, and events were in turn being shaped by the emergent mythology.

It’s easy, maybe too easy, to dismiss the mythic West as pure invention. It’s a little more complicated than that, especially after the mid-1800s. Traveling storytellers, local lore, professional tale-spinners and journalists were reporting back on the go-it-alone heroics, which in turn inspired folks to go it alone, to seek out this place of freedom and self-reliance that never actually existed.

There was never a frontier.

Hey so this is my little collection I’ve set up to drop notes and links and doodles pertaining to a game I’m designing under the operating title Misfortune. Hope you enjoy it. I may post once a week or so. Opt out as desired.

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